Is Weed Legal in India: Cannabis Law

21 Sep 2022  Read 29209 Views

Bhang, Ganja, Weed, Charas, stuff, etc., are all popular nomenclatures of cannabis in India. Being an adult or a teenager (not to forget, even kids these days), you all may be familiar with this stuff used for ‘smoking’ or drunk as ‘Thandai’ during Holi. Cannabis has been a part of our country, especially in the Hindu religion. The plant is referred to as a “weed” because it can grow by itself in the wild, mostly in Indian soil. So, in India, the NDPS Act, 1985 governing the legality or illegality of cannabis prohibits consuming its flowers, fruits, or resins but allows the harvest and consumption of its leaves which is why bhang is legal in India as it is made of its leaves, it would still be legal if an occasional flower or a bud, get into the mix. 

"The question here is why bhang is legal if weed is not. What is the NDPS Act, and how does it govern India's cannabis (weed)? Let’s get started!"

What is weed?

Now, what exactly do you mean by weed? It is a psychoactive drug coming from the Cannabis Sativa family. Marijuana has also been used widely as a recreational and entheogenic drug for treatment and remedies. It is utilized in several ways, such as smoking, vaporizing, cooking, medicine, etc.

Weed or Ganja under NDPS Act

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 defines cannabis as:

  • Charas, crude or purified, is a separated resin obtained from the cannabis plant and includes concentrated preparation or resin called liquid or hashish oil.

  • Ganja, the flowering or fruiting top, excludes seeds and leaves which do not form part of the top.

  • Any mixture or drink made out of charas or ganja.

Remember that this definition mentioned under NDPS Act excludes bhang (leaves) as a part of the plant even though it is. This Act prohibits the sale and production of cannabis resin and flowers, but the use of leaves and seeds of the cannabis plant is permitted, making bhang legal.

Why is weed illegal but not bhang?

Cannabis leaves are soaked in water for a few hours and ground with a mortar and pestle. When a paste is formed,  it is then strained, rolled into balls, and mixed with milk or yoghurt-based drinks. It is legal in India because the use of bhang and other forms of cannabis is deeply rooted in Hindu scriptures and ancient history. Did you know? In Atharva Veda, cannabis is considered one of the five sacred plants on the planet. In Ayurveda, bhang is a substitute for penicillin, and in Hindu philosophy, it is the nectar of the Gods. It is believed that Lord Shiva often lets his hair down and dances after having a drink or two of the bhang, followed by many other Hindu Gods.

Who regulates cannabis law in India?

The states have the power to regulate and form the state rules regulating it. Any person caught possessing any of the illegal parts, as discussed above, of the cannabis plant, may be arrested.

What happens if you are caught with weed in India?

Any person having prohibited drugs (weed or marijuana etc. excluding bhang) in India is an offence under the NDPS Act, and the punishment depends on the quantity of drugs in possession. Also, the person gets eligible for de-addiction treatment. Several laws get applicable to an addicted person after being caught, which deal with the possession and consumption of drugs in India by juveniles or children under 18 years, that are as follows:

  • The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985

  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000

  • State drug laws

What is the punishment for possession of weed in India?

Section 20 of the NDPS Act, 1985 

  • It states that the production, sale/purchase, transportation, interstate import/export, or any other commercial activity of cannabis is punishable.

  • The prescribed punishment for holding a small quantity is rigorous imprisonment for up to 6 months, a fine of Rs. 10,000, or both.

  • For holding more than a small quantity but less than the commercial quantity, the prescribed punishment is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine of Rs. 1 lakh, or both.

  • For holding commercial quantities, the prescribed punishment is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10-20 years, a fine of Rs. 1-2 lakh, or both.

Commercial quantity means any quantity greater than the quantity mentioned by the Centre by notification in the Official Gazette. Presently as of 2022, the commercial quantity of Ganja is 20 Kgs or more. Here is the list of small and commercial quantities of several drugs in India:

Drug Small Quantity

Commercial Quantity


5 grams 250 grams


2 grams 100 grams

Hashish or Charas

100 grams 1 kg


25 grams 2.5 kgs


1kg 20 kgs

If, in case, you allow your premises to be used for such an offence, the charges will be made under section 20 and section 25 of the NDPS Act. 

Section 27 of the NDPS Act, 1985

  • It lays down the punishment for consuming illegal drugs under narcotic or psychotropic substances.

  • Speaking of the nature of the offences committed under Section 27 of the NDPS Act are non-bailable and cognizable.

Section 28 of the NDPS Act, 1985

  • Section 28 provides the punishment for an attempt to commit an offence under the NDPS Act. 

  • So, it says that whoever attempts to commit any offence punishable under this Chapter or to cause such offence to be committed and in such an attempt does any act towards the commission of the offence shall be punishable with the punishment provided for the offence.

Section 29 of the NDPS Act, 1985

It states the punishment for abetment and criminal conspiracy. It is stated that whoever abets, or is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit any offence punishable, shall, whether the offence is or be not committed in consequence of such abetment or pursuance of such criminal conspiracy, be punishable with the punishment provided for the offence.

Countries where one can smoke weed

Hence, India is not one of the countries where weed is legal. However, bhang is legal. And Uruguay, Canada, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, USA, Jamaica, The Czech Republic, Columbia, etc., wherein Uruguay was the first country in the world to legalize weed for the purpose of recreation.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 269 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Manager at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course). She is a patent analyst & had also done advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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